A songbook drawn from the vast repertoire of Duke Ellington is hardly an original idea; the challenge to any jazz musician is to come up with fresh interpretations of his music, while hopefully including less frequently performed selections in addition to the hits. Jessica Williams succeeds in both cases on this solo piano CD. Starting with a beautifully reharmonized treatment of "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" (with a floating bassline), she follows it up with a buoyant stride interpretation of "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" that would have captured the attention of the best of the Harlem school of ticklers, especially with her brief Tatum-like runs. Her choppy, somewhat dissonant approach to "Prelude to a Kiss," while not all that romantic, is very refreshing. Most musicians probably dread requests for the too frequently played "Satin Doll"; Williams' arrangement sticks fairly close to its theme while incorporating some adventurous improvising in spots. She captures the humor within "Angelica" (also recorded by Ellington as "The Purple Gazelle") with a subtly swinging performance. Surprises come with her back-to-back performances of "C Jam Blues" and its descendant, "Duke's Place." She is reminiscent of Oscar Peterson in her driving take of "C Jam Blues," while incorporating a boogie-woogie bass in the middle of the track. No vocalist is needed for her percussive rendition of "Duke's Place," which is powered by an inventive bassline. In several spots, Williams incorporates improvised interludes between individual Ellington songs. This is another rewarding release by Jessica Williams.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden